Too Close to Home by Tressa Messinger

th

1/2

Caution – spoilers in this review.

Too Close to Home (The Forensic Files Book 1)I was originally going to give this a two star rating because I thought this was a self-published author and this was her first attempt at a crime series. While this is the author’s first attempt at a crime novel, this is not the author’s first book, nor is this a self-published work. This book actually has a publisher (Limitless Publishing LLC).

This is why I ultimately bumped it from two stars down to one.The concept of this book wasn’t bad, but the actual writing was less than stellar. I had issues with so many parts of this book that I actually took notes so I could remember them all. The positive was that I read the entire book (so maybe this actually deserves one and a half stars).

I would really like to see this author succeed, because I think she actually has talent, but I think she tried to wrap too much into this story to do it justice. I think with some proper editing, some good beta readers, and hard-line revisions, this book could really knock it out of the ballpark.

The negatives:

1. Possibly, I am not the target audience.

I am a 40-something mom of three (two are teenagers). The reason I say that I am not the target audience is because there were a few things that struck me as irritating and, frankly, not very believable. First, I don’t know people that talk the way the characters in her book do. Most men don’t repeatedly say “Damn, girl!” Maybe that’s just my profession. Maybe cops say that all the time. I’m not a police officer, I wouldn’t know.

Also, this quote: “Even at the ripe age of thirty-six…” So, does that make me, at 41, older than dirt? Maybe that was supposed to be funny, but most books that I read usually have one of the characters complaining about feeling old, not the narrative stating that if you’re over 35 you’re washed up.

 2. Rivers are made of fresh water, not salt water.

Yes, this is nit-picky, I know, and probably most people wouldn’t pick up on this detail or even care about this, but this bothered me. There were several instances where the author states that Carma took a deep breath of the “salty river air.” I’m pretty sure I understood where the author was going, but river air shouldn’t be salty. Ocean water is salty. Seawater can be salty. River water is not salty unless you have serious issues with intrusion because of too much water demand (like we have here in the Sacramento Delta).

 

The author also makes a comment about one of the characters coming up from the salty water of the creek. Creeks are also fresh water, so, again, unless you have saltwater intrusion, there shouldn’t be any salt in the creeks. And so ends my water quality lesson for the day. We can also refer back to point one of my not being the target audience – I doubt that a water/wastewater engineer was her intended reader.

 

3. The second murder suspect, Ronald

 

“Isn’t Ronald a white kid?” Yes. Yes he is, and that is why it is weird for him to be poor and live on the wrong side of the tracks? Can white people not be poor? But we’ll explain that away because the officer who said that is from New York. And in New York, all white people are rich? I still don’t get it. Never mind. Let’s move on….

 

I don’t understand why Ronald was killed. This, to me, is a major story flaw. There was no reason to murder him. I’ll explain (warning, this may be a spoiler). Ronald finds a photo on his flash drive that supposedly cracks a part of the case wide open. When he discovers this photo, he panics and decides to hide the memory stick in his locker at school. This is what gets him killed (I think). This memory stick is the focus of a couple of points in the story, including the (very weak) red herring suspect.

 

But we still don’t know why he was killed. The author could have had him come into the police station with the flash drive and hand it over. She could have had Ronald’s dad find the thing and turn it in. He could have dropped it in the school hallway. Why did he have to die? I can sort of figure out why the killer would have gone after Ronald, but I don’t see how he would have known where Ronald would have been in order to do it. The murder didn’t fit, and added nothing to the story. I think that the author would have been better off leaving it out and focusing more on other character development (like backstory on Carma, because I really don’t care about this detective one bit).

 

4. Mike

“Mike looked from his daughter to Carma, desperation shooting out of his eyes.” (Like fricken laser beams pew pew!)

He has to be one of the weakest characters I have ever come across. He is Carma’s five-second love interest, has sex with 17 year old, is our 2-second red herring suspect, and finally tragically dies by slashing his wrists with his keys while in jail. He made me want to shoot BB’s into my eyes so I wouldn’t have to read about him. Refer to item three about removing Ronald’s murder. Spending more time developing Mike’s character would have gone a long way here.

5. Bad police work

“Carma looked up from the book in shock. That beautiful all-American girl who was seemingly perfect in every way had an abortion a few months ago” EYE ROLL. And then Carma goes on to hide the evidence to protect Missy’s parents. Carma later goes on to say that if she had actually read the diary, she would have known who the killer was sooner. Huh, guess that’s why you don’t hide evidence.

 

Then there is the bringing in and questioning Mike for Missy’s murder. No internal affairs, just Carma’s partner interviewing another cop. Because that’s how it works in the small town, apparently. And not one other officer thinks to check Mike’s pockets before putting him in a jail cell? And nobody checks in on him after they lock him up. For all the work the author supposedly did on the forensics, she missed researching some very basic police procedures.

6. Grammar, word choice, and slang

Commas can be a beautiful thing. They can also be distracting when misused. This book was full of fragments, run-on sentences, and comma splices. If I hadn’t been reading it on my kindle, I would have been tempted to break out my red pen and start correcting errors. I caught myself rereading several paragraphs because I couldn’t understand what was written. That is never a good sign.

“It was a bath towel saturated with blood”… “it’s still damp.” The above conversation would work if the next line were a sarcastic comment like “you think?” But sadly, it wasn’t. This was a serious crime scene discussion in the book and the sarcastic comment was from me. If a towel is sitting in a pool of blood, I’m betting it’s not just damp, it’s probably – what’s the word I’m looking for – SATURATED.

And finally, there is the issue of slang. Sometimes it works, but in this story, it didn’t. We all use slang in our daily lives, but seeing it written in a novel can be jarring. For example, “I’ll see you in a couple of days.” That’s how we see it written usually. When talking, especially if we’re talking quickly, the “of” comes out sounding like “a.” Unfortunately, in this book, that was how it was written “couple a days.” That is technically how it sounds, but seeing it written that way isn’t cool, it’s jarring.

The positives:

  1. It appears that the author did try to research the forensics, although there wasn’t a lot of that in the book.
  2. The concept was good. I could see this as a made for TV cop drama (but maybe with better editing)
  3. This could make a decent series (again with better editing and more focus on character development – don’t try to cram so much into one book)

I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Part of me is really rooting for this author. I’d like to see her succeed. I know she has a second book out, but I don’t know if I will pick it up to see if the writing has matured. Part of me wants to see if this book was simply the awkward start to something great, but the other part of me fears that maybe this is all there is – poor grammar, bad character development, and misused slang.

Buried Secrets: A True Story of Serial Murder by Edward Humes

 

th

th

th

th

 

 

Buried Secrets: A True Story of Serial Murder

I rarely read books on true crime, but since I’ve gotten into a reading funk because I’m tired of the same old story lines, I decided to try reading a completely different genre.

I have a hard time saying this was a “good” book. How can a book about real-life murder be “good?” I will say, however, that this book was fascinating, well researched, and incredibly disturbing.

Humes does an excellent job of remaining neutral narrating the events of the disturbing El Padrino murder rituals. While some of the descriptions can be graphic, I didn’t feel they were overdone, or written simply for shock value.

The violence described was enough to show the depravity of a madman, but not so much that it read like some over-the-top gross-out horror flick. Humes did a good job of showing the decline of some of the cult members from normal to crazy (like Sara and Omar), to the downward spiral of the criminally insane to the psychopathic (like Adolfo and Duby).

But this book told more than just the story of the horrific murders of fifteen people in Mexico by the El Padrino cult. It described the effects of the drug trade on a small border town in Mexico and how someone like Adolfo Constanzo could rise to power. It explained why people could go missing and the police didn’t seem to notice or care. It explained why people w

ould buy into El Padrino’s strange brand of witchcraft. It explained the climate of fear that allowed Adolfo to run his cult so successfully for so many years. It explained how he was able to evade capture for as long as he did.

Humes took care to separate the perverted religion that Constanzo practiced from the true religions like Santeria, Palo Mayombe, and witchcraft – pointing out the differences in the “black” and “white” magics that are practiced in these beliefs. What Constanzo’s crew practiced was a religion of his own making. What it spawned was a tidal wave of panic and speculation of widespread satanic cult activities throughout Mexico and Texas. I liked how Humes pointed out the differences between Costanzo’s religion and the true religious practices, making a point to state that the result of El Padrino’s work was mass hysteria and misunderstanding.

This book was well researched and well written, but probably not for everyone. For those not able to stomach the horrors that some “humans” can inflict on others – steer clear of this book. Otherwise, it is a fascinating, yet gruesome look into a world that 99.9% of us will (thank goodness) never understand.

 

 

Vintage Baby Quilt

This was my first attempt to complete a quilt from start to finish. Usually I will sew the quilt top, and a backing and send it off to someone to do the quilting. This quilt by Yoyomama was a quilt as you go pattern. While it didn’t come out perfect, I was pretty happy with the results and will probably make this again if given the opportunity.

This was the front of the quilt, made out of batik fabrics sewn on a white background:

DSC_1778

The back of the quilt was a flannel jungle animal print that I fell in love with:

DSC_1777

I hope their new baby enjoys the quilt. I had a lot of fun making it.

Corrosion by John Bassoff

ththththth

Corrosion

Although this book became predictable about a third of the way in, I really did enjoy the character development. Dark and disturbing, this book definitely had that film noir feel to it.

We are first introduced to Joseph Downs, a war veteran who has facial burns all over his face. People’s reactions to him vary from initial disgust to admiration for a war hero. It isn’t long before we figure out that something isn’t quite right about Mr. Downs and maybe, just maybe, he isn’t all that reliable of a narrator.

I confess I love books like that – where the person telling the story may not be giving you the entire picture.

This book consists of three characters, each telling their own story. There is Joseph Downs, as I mentioned. The unreliable war vet with the scarred face who is hiding something in his past that you just can’t put your finger on. There is Benton Faulks, the damaged 16-year old boy who deals with a dying mother and his crazy father who turns to desperate measures to save her. And finally, Reverend Wells, the masked preacher spouting Hell and damnation to the sinners of the world. As the book progresses, we slowly find out how all three of these people are linked together and to one desolate mining shack hidden away in the mountains.

The character development is fantastic. The writing style is gorgeous. Some may have issues with the lack of quotations, but I didn’t find that to be too difficult. As I said previously, I saw where we were going about a third of the way in, but I really didn’t mind knowing things before the author revealed them. I was engaged enough to continue reading, even though I knew where he was heading. I take that as a sign of a good author. Despite knowing the final destination, I was quite happy just to come along for the ride.

This is the second book I read by this author. I’ll probably pick up more for the simple fact that I really enjoyed his writing style.

The Feedback Loop (Book #1)

th thththth

 

The Feedback Loop Book One

I picked up this book mostly because I was waiting for book 5 in the Life is Beautiful series. A series that I decided to try because it was so different from anything I had ever read, and was shocked to find that I really enjoyed.

What do you know? I found I really liked this book too. So much, that I purchased books two and three, and even decided to give The Zero Patient Trilogy a go.

I understand that Cooper’s writing may not be for everyone. It’s gritty, rough, and downright vulgar at times. but it’s also fast-paced and downright fun, in my opinion. Filled with crazy characters that are both deplorable and yet, somehow likeable, set in a world that is both completely unrealistic, but strangely completely imaginable. I think that’s because Cooper does such an excellent job of describing both the characters and the setting that suspension of disbelief is not only entirely possible, but inevitable.

This series is set in the virtual reality world that is going on around the same time as Life is Beautiful. You have some of the same types of things going on (pollutes, humandroids, and big conglomerates like McStarbucks and eBaymazon) but they aren’t the main focus of this story line. I will say that I liked seeing these things pop up again (but I’m nerdy that way). Quantum finds himself stuck in his Virtual Reality game reliving the same day over and over, until one day a visit from another human player disrupt everything and, to put it bluntly, all Hell breaks loose.

I hope Mr. Cooper continues to write. I am loving these crazy stories and characters he comes up with.

The Cage (The Cage #1)

Rating:  th th 1/2

I’m starting to believe that there really are no new stories, only retellings of old ones. What I will say is that this is a retelling of a newer story line. The concept is nothing new – alien race takes humans as zoo specimens. Yes, this has been written about before (like I said, no new concepts here).

But this isn’t a story line that has been written to death like sparkly “bad-boy” vampire werewolf hybrid aliens, who really are just abusive jerkwads, that are eventually “tamed” by bland, yawn-worthy simpering heroines who are so forgettable that they all blend together like day-old lumpy mashed potatoes.

So, yay! One star for that!

The writing was good. It was fast paced, and the story line was interesting enough to keep me intrigued and engaged.

So, another star for that.

And half a star because I’m curious enough to pick up the second book in the series from the library when it comes out. Don’t get me wrong, this was an enjoyable read, but I had some issues with this book.

Issue #1:

Lucky and Cora are linked through a car accident that killed Lucky’s mother. We find this out in the beginning of the book. Lucky has guilt over this, believing that he is the main reason Cora went to jail for his mother’s death. He feels guilt over this and tells her that he played a part in sending her to juvenile detention. She (understandably) holds this against him.

We later find out that Cora takes the fall for her dad based on her own decisions. SHE is the one who decides to take the fall. And this is where I have a hard time with Cora’s self-righteous indignation. She’s upset with Lucky for taking money to frame her for a murder plot that SHE came up with?

Fine. Let’s go with this messed up thought process in which Cora is upset that Lucky sees her as weak. She sees herself as a strong, self-sufficient woman who knows what she wants out of life (apparently). And what she finds attractive is the gorgeous alien (I should have done a word count on how often his looks were referenced) who has been spying on her for years and treats her like a puppy. He sees her as the martyr she thinks she is.

The alien who kidnapped her, imprisoned her, isolated her from the others, subjects her to weird fitness and intelligence “tests,” controls her and watches her 24/7. THAT’S who she finds sexy and irresistible. Because she’s a strong, independent woman. And strong, self-sufficient women like controlling, stalkers who spy on them.

Ick.

Issue #2 (which is pretty much a continuation from Issue #1):

I know that there has been research done about the Stockholm Syndrome and it exists. You can sympathize and fall in love with your captors. Maybe this could have happened in this book. But it didn’t. Nope. She fell in love with her captor because….

He’s gorgeous.

And a giant asshat.

(And a wannabe Vulcan – live long and prosper, y’all!)

And the alien is in love with her. Why? Because she’s also so amazingly spectacular. She’s blonde. And, she’s blonde. Oh, and did I mention she’s blonde? Because they say that a lot in the book.

It was also said that she wasn’t the first choice for this zoo. She was brought there because the alien liked her. Because she’s amazing somehow. Her “amazing-ness” isn’t explained, or apparently very important. From what I can tell, she’s simply an obnoxious spoiled rich teenager. But maybe to a super evolved alien race, that’s special?

I can only assume that this amazingness-that-must-not-be-named is why the ancient practice of Kolinahr failed the Kindred where it worked for Mr. Spock and the Vulcans. Why Cassian throws caution to the wind and risks everything he values for one very stupid, very whiny, very selfish, blonde sixteen-year-old earth twit.

Issue #3

Surprise Cliffhanger Ending!

Please tell me that latent psychic abilities isn’t the reason for this human zoo. If so, I am going to silently scream. What a stupid, stupid reason. I would rather have NO reason than the one given.

Despite my issues, this was still a fun read. I would have preferred it without the romance, but it seems that authors don’t feel they can have a hot selling sci-fi YA without a love triangle. This love fest just felt forced and phony. And I think it probably could have worked if the author had taken a different angle.

She could have gone with the Stockholm Syndrome theory – captive falling for her captor out of a desperate need for survival. Sure, that’s weird, but life is stranger than fiction, right? Even a realistic romantic relationship between captives would have been somewhat okay if it had been developed properly.

I think she was trying for a sympathetic alien willing to risk everything to do what is morally right, but I think she missed. This could have been plausible, but not in the way Shepherd went about it.

What was developed in this story was straight up nonsense.

Alien goes to earth to collect specimens for his zoo. Alien sees boy feeling guilty over girl. Alien becomes obsessed with girl. Alien kidnaps girl. Alien locks girl up in zoo on asteroid. Girl thinks alien is cute. Girl falls in love with alien because he is cute. Alien hides all feelings from everyone except from Girl. Girl is special.

Wait. This is supposed to be a love triangle. Crap. Um, oh, yeah, there’s the boy from earth that was watching the girl. Oh yeah, he’s here. Um, Alien pairs them up, says boy from earth and Girl have to have sex in 21 days or they will die. (Whew, almost blew that love triangle there, glad I rescued that!)

Back to Alien and Girl…..

Girl rebels against alien race. Alien falls more in love with Girl. Girl still thinks Alien is gorgeous. Alien is still an asshat towards Girl. I’m near the end of the story. Something exciting needs to happen. They should kiss! Yes, kissing! Oh, and escape attempt. And MAJOR BETRAYAL. But they still need to be in love.

And end scene. Wait for second book….

Economics 101: When in trouble, print more money (just make sure it’s transgendered)

Today in my email, a “letter” pops up. It’s a letter to one Caitlyn Jenner from a reporter from my all-time favorite “news” source that still hasn’t figured out what “unsubscribe” means.

It reads “Dear Caitlyn Jenner, Please Reconsider Your Support of Ted Cruz”

Okay, this is begging to be opened. And ripped apart.

The tag line:

Our economy is not in mortal danger. Vulnerable trans teenagers are.

Um. Okay? I can’t say that I know what a trans teenager feels because

1) I’m not trans, and

2) I’m not a teenager.

But I do know what a failing economy feels like. I know what it costs to feed three teenaged kids every week ($300 in groceries). I know what it costs to put shoes on their feet ($150 for each child every 6 weeks). And I know how much we spend in health insurance ($250 per paycheck – that’s $500 a month and that’s our subsidized cost thanks to our place of employment). I also know that I haven’t seen a COLA or a raise in 5 years.

Not that I’m complaining. I get paid very well for the job I do. And my job is stable. I’m not in any threat of losing my position. Which, given the current situation, is a wonderful place to be. I recently attended a training class and two other students there told me that they only narrowly escaped layoffs. I am really blessed.

But don’t tell me that my concerns about the economy is not anywhere near as concerning as what a trans teenager is facing. Yes, being a teenager is difficult. But so is looking at your children and wondering if you’ll be able to feed them. Or seeing them sick and wondering if you can scrape together enough money to take them to the doctor, or buy them the medicine they need. Or watching your kids sleep and thinking “I have no job, how in the world can I pay my rent? Where are we going to sleep?”

Those are problems.

He goes on to talk about the National debt, stating that $18.5 trillion isn’t really all that bad. I mean, it’s not good, but it’s not like the country could collapse or anything. Obama inherited this debt and it was worse than the Great Depression. Obama has SAVED us from economic collapse many times over. And our debt has only increased by 65% during his presidency as opposed to 175% under Reagan.

Okay, the percentages sound good, but what about the DOLLAR AMOUNT? It looks like Mr. Reagan added a whopping $1.86 trillion to our debt, which, I admit is quite the feat. I’m pretty impressed at the size of that number. Mr. Dubya did his share of damage as well, coming in at a whopping $5.849 trillion (this is the son, not the dad). But it’s our current president that tops them all (and he’s not even done yet!). He’s #1 with $6.463 trillion, and counting! HOLY SMOKES.

But don’t worry, he says. The government isn’t like a household; it can print money.
Oh good. Because that will fix everything. Ever heard of hyperinflation? 1920s? Germany? Is this sounding familiar to anyone?

th

wheelbarrows full of Deutch marks in order to buy loaves of bread

But enough of economy stupidity, lets move on to other stupid concepts, shall we?

This “reporter” goes on to talk about “bathroom bills” that are supposedly on the “Right Wing Agenda.” These are laws that would supposedly force trans women to use men’s bathrooms. Personally, I don’t have an issue with a trans-woman using the women’s bathroom. We have stalls, so come on in, close the door and do your business. I really don’t care. I would think that it would be more disturbing for these women to use the men’s room.

I mean, how weird would it be standing next to some lady at a urinal. What do you do then? Look over, nod, and say, “Wow, that purse totally goes with those shoes. Get those at Macy’s?”

Awkward much?

Grown ups can make their own decisions. If a trans-gendered person walks into a public bathroom and you’re uncomfortable, LEAVE. You’re an adult, act like it. Be the bigger person and move on.

Where I draw the line is in high school. I have a teenage daughter. She’s uncomfortable enough undressing in front of other GIRLS. Now she’s supposed to be okay changing in front of someone who feels like a girl, but is anatomically a BOY?

Nope.

Not gonna happen.

Fuggeddaboudit.

And because I also have an issue with this, I’m evil. Because I back my daughter in her feelings of discomfort, because I don’t want someone who is (for all intents and purposes) male in the locker room with my female child, because I respect my daughter’s right to have her feelings and privacy respected, there is something inherently wrong with me?

Whatever.

Fine.

If protecting my children means “damaged” in “progressive-speak”, I’ll wear it as a badge of honor and scream it at the top of my lungs.

I’M DAMAGED!

And damned proud of it, too.